When Manny Machado stood in the batter’s box and swung helplessly as a Chris Sale slider brushed past his ankles, it was fuel for major league baseball’s ire. The Johnny Hustle comments, the clipping of first baseman’s ankles and the attitude worked simultaneously and fervently to ruin Machado’s image.
When it happened his outlook felt destroyed. Dodger fans were louder and more prominent looks into a much larger yet quieter group of frustrated people. The overwhelming and immediate response to Machado was his offseason would be trashed, his original asking price tanked and his image changed forever.
Perhaps he was the villain. Maybe he still is. Perhaps all Machado needed were the bright lights of Los Angeles to bring out something Baltimore could not. But the Padres looked past that.
They looked past the comments, the text messages that read “thanks” when other players offered the 26-year-old their congratulations. They looked past the mentor they signed for their young players coming up and they disregarded the past. Off the field, the story is yet to be told. The coming years will tell it. But, for 10 years and $300 million, the Padres have changed their futures on the diamond.
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There is no need to beat around the bush. Machado is 26-years-old, he is a top-10 bat in major league baseball and his defense is Gold Glove worthy at third base, less than that a shortstop.
On offense, calling Machado less than a star is naive. Over the last four years, he has a 162 game average of 37 home runs, 36 doubles, 98 RBI’s and a 129 OPS+. He is incredible.
So what does this do for San Diego? The team as it stood yesterday was no better than a 70 win team. In 2018 they won a measly 66 games and finished last in the NL West. 25.5 games behind the Dodgers, seven behind the fourth place Giants.
Their pitching was abysmal and their batting not much better. Yet, with Machado, the Friars could easily be a .500 team, a mark that already vaults them into a race for third place in the west.
Machado brings wins on his own. Last year he was worth 6.2 WAR according to Fangraphs. The Padres generated 4.8 WAR at shortstop between four players last year. Already, in adding Machado, the team improves drastically.
Machado also brings power to the table. Last season he clubbed 37 homers, San Deigo totaled just 162, good for 24th in major league baseball.
If you use Baseball Reference’s stat neutralizer, a system built to show a certain players production in a certain team’s ballpark, Machado is not greatly affected by his move to a less hitter-friendly park. On the year, Machado would hit just one less home run with five less RBI’s than his 2018 totals. San Diego should be a pitchers friend, but according to the stat neutralizer, Machado would still be dominant, making it the pitcher’s nightmare.
So how does the move relandscape the NL West? So far all that I’ve pointed out would suggest they get slightly better. The answer lies not in Manny but in the farm system.
Heading into 2019, the Padres lead major league baseball with the most prospects in the top-100. They clock in with 11.
Of those 11 players, the majority are pitchers, a department San Diego has largely struggled in for the last few seasons. Almost all of those pitchers are expected to appear at some point in 2019 and with Machado on the roster, that team gets young and dangerous very quickly.
With the surplus in prospects and a star bat already on the roster, San Diego can trade talent for more stars, not worrying about the bidding war of free-agency or, quite frankly, the bidding war in trades. San Diego can beat any offer.
So, when Machado signed a deal worth $30 million a year, his immediate impact was obvious. But, down the line, the young infielder could be the piece San Diego needed to start bringing up the best farm system in baseball. Machado was the first domino in the process back to relevance. San Diego is once again a promising franchise.